After (arguably) being the Braves' pitching MVP of 2009, Jair Jurrjens came into the 2010 season with a ton of expectations. Unfortunately for our 24-year old from Curacao, he struggled with injuries throughout the season and was never able to get on track.
Despite making 20 starts and pitching 116.1 innings for the Braves this past season, most will view Jair's 2010 season as a forgettable one. The first of his injuries came in his 5th start of the season; with an un-impressive line of 0-3 and 4.92ERA (4.74 FIP), Jurrjens aggravated his right hamstring in St. Louis against the Cardinals. He only made it through one inning before being pulled. He was diagnosed with a strained hamstring, but with proper rest and rehabilitation, most figured Jair would only miss a few weeks. Unfortunately for him, things didn't go as smoothly as planned.
After taking nearly three weeks off, JJ attempted to test his hamstring in Milwaukee in pre-game warmups. After just a few strides, Jair was on the ground holding his hamstring. He had re-aggravated his hammy and would be forced to go back onto the 15-day disabled list for the second time in a month. To be perfectly honest, things weren't looking great.
After missing a month and a half, Jurrjens returned to the Braves on June 30th and actually pitched pretty well. With all eyes on his ailing hamstring, Jair threw five strong innings against the Washington Nationals and recorded his first victory of the season. This was actually the start of a pretty strong set of starts from JJ and he went on to have the best month of his season in July. In July, he pitched at least six innings in each of his five starts. He posted an ERA of 3.84 and FIP of 3.90 and ended up with a record of 2-1 in a stretch that included the Phillies, Padres and Reds. That's pretty solid for a guy who hadn't pitched in two months.
Jair continued to pitch well in the first half of August and it looked as if he had re-gained his 2009 form. Unfortunately for both JJ and the Braves, something went terribly wrong towards the end of the month and it ultimately led to his season being cut short. After being staked to what appeared to be an insurmountable 9-1 lead in Colorado, Jurrjens inexplicably lost total command on the mound and surrendered seven runs in what would turn out to be one of the more crushing loses of the season. In his next start agains New York, Jurrjens (who actually won the game... LOLMets!) walked six batters in five innings and had no control of his pitches from the first inning. For a guy known for his phenomenal command, this was very troubling. What in the world was going on with JJ?
As it turns out, we learn that Jurrjens is actually pitching with a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee. After a stellar start in Florida (where the knee didn't appear to bother Jair at all), it all came undone against the Cardinals as he gave up seven runs in only 3.2 innings. Disgusted with his recent pitching performance down the stretch, JJ tried to give it one more shot against the Nationals. It didn't turn out well, and it would end up being his final start in 2010.
The Braves shut Jair down after that start and he wouldn't return to the mound in either the regular or post-season. Instead, the training staff focused on rehabbing his knee and eventually sent him to have arthroscopic knee surgery to repair the torn meniscus.
Outlook on 2011 and Beyond:
It would seem foolish to deal Jurrjens in the off-season as his value is at an all-time low, but I guess Frank Wren will at least listen to potential offers. Last off-season was probably the oppertune time to deal Jair as he's not likely to stay in Atlanta once his current contract is up (Scott Boras, we hate you.), but it's pointless to play the "what if?" game. As for the 2011 season, it's pretty safe to pencil JJ in as our 4th starter behind Hudson, Hanson and Lowe. All reports indicated his knee surgery went well and he should be ready for Spring Training. All Braves fans can hope for is a speedy recovery and for our 24-year old to re-gain his 2009 form.